by Ross Semple
These films are horribly camp…
“It’s so bad it’s good!” All too often films – particularly horror films – that are just plain terrible are labelled as camp. Camp films can be very bad, but they can also be very good. What makes them camp isn’t their quality, but their ability to provoke an immediate response in the gay viewer.
Anyway, here is a spooky-themed selection of camp favourites to watch this Halloween…
Cat People is every bit as ridiculous as its title suggests. The 1942 film features engineer Oliver, who becomes infatuated with Serbian beauty Irina. The two begin seeing each other, but after a while it is discovered that Irina transforms into a cat when threatened or aroused. She targets Oliver’s colleague and confidante, Alice.
The acting in Cat People is so incredibly stilted, with Simone Simon’s supposedly Serbian accent ranging from hilarious to unintelligible. Shockingly, however, it’s actually a very good horror film. The swimming pool scene in particularly is still creepy enough to merit a shiver or two, even seventy years after its release.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge
Jesse Walsh moves into a new home on Elm Street, which was previously occupied by the first film’s heroine Nancy. Strange things start to happen as Jesse begins to dream that he is Freddy Krueger in his dreams. Freddy takes over Jesse’s body to kill in the real world.
A lot has been written about this film’s gay subtext – well, text, really. There is even a film being made about it. Jessie has a Freddy Krueger inside him, he runs in to his gym teacher in a gay bar, and the first place he goes after being attacked by Krueger is to his male best friend’s house. Hmm …
Aside from the overtly homo themes, there’s a lot more for the camp eye to enjoy. This was the first we got to see Freddy’s lighter side – complete with awful, murdery puns. In later sequels he became a bit of a laughing stock, but here Freddy is still at least a little funny.
Joan Crawford as an axe murderer? I don’t mind if I do. After being held in a psychiatric hospital for the murder of her husband and his mistress, Joan Crawford’s Lucy is released into the world. When people start turning up dead with axe wounds, all fingers point to Lucy, but is she the culprit?
This is one of Joan Crawford’s final films, made after she was dubbed ‘box office poison’ by the major movie studios. Crawford is as brilliantly insane as her character, and chews every last bit of scenery before the film reaches its conclusion.
Other highlights from Crawford’s later career include the circus-set Berserk! Trog, her final and worst film.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Starring Bette Davis and (hello again) Joan Crawford, this classic film about an ageing former child star who goes off the deep end as she begins to talk to herself and imprisons her wheelchair-bound sister in their dilapidated mansion. With one of the most uncomfortable endings in cinema history, this makes for creepy viewing.
Davis and Crawford were notorious enemies, and watching them play out their feud as duelling sisters is like the best Real Housewives fight you can ever imagine. Davis’ gradual descent into madness is as funny as it is tragic – her eyes are practically bulging out of her head by the time the credits roll.
There are many ridiculous horror movies from the 1950s, but The Tingler is definitely one of the best – or worst, depending on what you’re looking for. Essentially, the film is about a worm-like parasite called a ‘Tingler’ that lives in your spine and feeds on fear. If you get too frightened, the Tingler kills you by crushing your spine. The only way to stop the Tingler is to scream. Vincent Price stars as the useless Dr Chapin who trying to stop the Tingler’s reign of terror.
Famed for it’s dreadful special effects, The Tingler is unique among horror films. It’s director, William Castle – who also did Strait-Jacket –, was known for creating gimmicks to make people come see his otherwise awful films. For this one, certain seats in every cinema auditorium were fitted with an electric shocker that would ‘tingle’ audience member’s backs during certain parts of the film to make them scream. What a wonderfully camp creation.
What are some of your favourite camp classics to watch on Halloween?